The month of Ramadan starts in just a few days and will bring with it many traditions that will influence the daily life of those who fast and those who do not alike. Charity is an integral part of Ramadan and one of the forms this takes is obvious in every supermarket: the Ramadan bag.
Stacked high to the ceiling, in special-issue plastic bags, the Ramadan bags are hard to miss when you venture out to purchase your daily groceries. Ramadan first-timers are easy to spot, puzzled foreigners staring in the bag, wondering why there is a special promotion on this particular combination of goods.
Ready-made bags are usually filled with basic staples such as oil, rice, pasta, lentils and sugar besides the traditional dates and pressed apricots. They are meant to make the act of charity easier, and make a nice profit for the supermarkets as well of course.
Alternatively there are many initiatives that collect monetary or food donations in the weeks leading up to Ramadan to create Ramadan bags. Charities, NGO’s and individuals run vigorous Facebook and Twitter campaigns to rally their friends and relatives to contribute what they can. Volunteers buy the foodstuffs in bulk and spend hours assembling and distributing the bags. The privately filled bags have the option to include meat or chicken, and are often distributed to a set group of people and often more than once during the month.
The tradition of giving a bag of food is an act of charity that can seem precarious to those new to the phenomenon, performing charity gracefully is not an easy feat when the recipient is in front of you. Do not let this stop you to participate in this tradition though – it is a way of sharing food, and of helping to provide those who have little with the opportunity to prepare traditional breakfasts for their families once the sun goes down.
And in typical Egyptian fashion there is an elegant way to turn your charity into a blessing: as you offer your gift wish the recipient Ramadan Kareem.